Not sure what to expect, what the steps might be or want to know any do’s and don’ts? Read my Hammam Spa Beginner’s Guide to get up to speed!
I’d done a bit of research about Hammam baths before our trip to Turkey. Like most things in life, reading about something is one thing – experiencing it is another. Let me share the reality of my first Hammam experience so you can be better prepared for yours!
As my taxi pulls up in Kemmer outside an arched cellar doorway – the spa signs faded by time and sunlight, I wonder what I was letting myself in for. But my Turkish Hammam was one of my best ever spa experiences.
Rika welcomes me to his ’boutique’ Turkish – gloriously dated and kitch. Directed to the changing room I’m relieved to find that I can leave my bikini on! However, I swap my leather flip flops for plastic ones or traditional Turkish bath clogs (Takunya). With all personal items safely in a locker, I attach the key to my wrist and move on.
Step 1 – The steam room
It’s important with a Hammam to get your body nice and warm so the first step is often a steam room. Hy host shows me to the steam room and only interupts 10 minutes in with a cool cup of water. 15 minutes and I’m ready for Step 2!
Step 2 – Cold Plunge pool
Maybe I didn’t look the type, but Rika hesitates when he suggests a dip in the cold plunge pool! But it’s all about embracing the opportunities – so take the dip and you’ll be glad you did.
Step 3 – Sauna
I sizzle as I step in the sauna – and then take deep breaths as eucalyptus salts waft from the sauna coals. So far so good – but nothing unusual in the spa experience until…
Step 4 – Laying on the belly stone
The dry bit – My lovely lady therapist now takes over and leads me to a marbled room with the central gobek tasi – or belly stone taking centre stage. I lie down on my back on my Hammam towel (Peshtemal) and the stone starts to warm my body.
The wet bit – She manoeuvres a large stone basin (Kurna) under brass taps that extend out of a beautiful mosaic backsplash. The taps turn on and hot water fills the basin. Water cascades over the edge which makes a beautiful calming background noise. Swooping a silver bowl (Hamam tasi) into the basin of water, I’m doused in soothing hot water from top to toe. It’s an unbelievably simple yet intoxicating experience.
Step 5 – The scrub
Donning a slightly rough mitt (Kese), I’m scrubbed down with firm but not rough strokes. More soothing bowls of water rinse me off, then I’m flipped over for the same treatment on the other side. What luxury! When would I get a back scrub in my busy routine let alone have time or inclination to scrub the soles of my feet. Another rinse and I feel squeaky clean!
Step 6 – Bubbles!
So many bubbles!!! She picks up a light muslin that looks like a small pillowcase (köpük masajı) and is impregnated with soap. The muslin plunges into the basin of hot water, and after opening, is deftly waved back and forth. The forced air pushes bubbles to rise from the pillow shape and then they are hovered gently across my body. It’s joyful and whimsical and it makes me feel like a child, as I let out a giggle. This process repeats until I’m submerged in small bubbles that I feel melt across my skin. It’s total joy.
The bubbles are then rubbed into my body – she even gets my neck and behind the ears. More bowls of water and I move to a seated marble area where again I’m doused in bowls of water until not a bubble remains. I’m gently patted down with more Hammam towels – it’s really like being a kid again.
In some spas you can expect a hair wash and condition – so don’t be surprised if that’s the case!
Step 7 – Clay mask
Laying in a relaxation area, covered in warm towels a clay mask is gently brushed onto my face. And there I’m left in peace and quiet, just me and a sweet cup of Turkish tea.
With my clay mask cracked and dried, it was time to rinse it off and move on.
Step 8 – Massage
This final full body massage ensured that every remaining ounce of stress was eased out of my body.
Step 9 – Return to reality
As I dress I’m feeling soft, clean and with a lingering feeling of being a marshmallow. A morning well spent.
Where to get a Hammam Spa?
A Hammam Bath is an absolute must if you are lucky enough to visit Morocco or Turkey. There are plenty to choose from and they’re surprisingly inexpensive. But if you are looking for the Hammam experience closer to home then Viator and Tripadvisor can help. Treatwell.co.uk also has a useful list of UK based Hammam spas. If you are anywhere near Harrogate in the UK, the Turkish Baths Harrogate is a hidden gem and about as traditional as it gets.
Good to know..
- It’s ok to leave your bikini on. Or leave your bottoms on and wrap a hammam towel around your top if you prefer
- They will scrub and wash you down underneath your bikini!
- Masseuses often don’t speak English so be prepared for sign language
- Drink lots of water
- Despite what some might say, a Hammam is not painful
- Don’t go to a Hammam if you have open wounds and don’t shave the day you go!